Catherine Scott: Never clocked I had that much leisure time

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I remember being told at school that we needed to prepare for all the leisure time we were going to have thanks to computers and other advances.

We spent hours discussing just how we were going to keep ourselves occupied.

As I, and the majority of my friends, tear around madly juggling work, kids and housework, I cannot help but have a wry smile as I recall those lessons in leisure.

What leisure time? That is the much-repeated cry of my “have it all” generation as the technology which was supposed to free us up just increases the frenetic pace of 21st century living.

But apparently, according to an American professor, we are wrong.

We do have more leisure time than our forebears. Yeah, right! I hear you cry.

According to Professor John Robinson, who has researched the subject for more than 50 years, we have actually gained five more hours of free time a week since the 1960s. We are entering the workforce later, many work part-time and many are retiring early.

Robinson says it is our perception of time that is often wrong, and we exaggerate how much time we actually spend doing a particular thing.

He believes that we are incapable of appreciating leisure time because we are obsessed with just how busy we believe our lives have become.

“Being busy is a kind of status symbol. We can’t bear to be caught without having something to do.

“We’re rushing past life and not fully experiencing it,” he says.

So maybe those school lessons were in some way on the right lines. Rather than trying to work out what to do with all the free time, we have to learn how to actually recognise when we have free time and to make the most of it.

According to Robinson any free time that people do have is usually frittered away watching television. In the UK we watch 15.6 hours of television a week, which equates to 41.4 per cent of our free time.

In order to keep track of just how much free time we have, Robinson suggests keeping a diary by logging exactly how long we spend on the necessities of life such as work, commuting, family and household care and sleeping in any one 24-hour period and then subtracting the amount. Any time left, says Robinson, is leisure time.

But what this doesn’t seem to take into account is the amount of time spent working out exactly how you are going to fit all those necessities into your life.

If I could stop worrying about just how to keep all my plates spinning then may be I would feel less stressed and time-poor and could make better use of all the leisure time Prof Robinson seems to think I have.